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China Government Hardware

China Plans National, Unified CPU Architecture 240

Posted by Soulskill
from the bringing-resources-to-bear dept.
MrSeb writes "According to reports from various industry sources, the Chinese government has begun the process of picking a national computer chip instruction set architecture (ISA). This ISA would have to be used for any projects backed with government money — which, in a communist country such as China, is a fairly long list of public and private enterprises and institutions, including China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the world. The primary reason for this move is to lessen China's reliance on western intellectual property. There are at least five existing ISAs on the table for consideration — MIPS, Alpha, ARM, Power, and the homegrown UPU — but the Chinese leadership has also mooted the idea of defining an entirely new architecture. What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?"
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China Plans National, Unified CPU Architecture

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  • bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:55AM (#39821087)
    This is probably among the worst ideas I've ever heard. They're basically saying "Standardize at the cost of having different architectures that are superior in their own ways", which is just absurd.
    • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DaMattster (977781) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:00AM (#39821153)
      I don't think it is a question of a good or bad idea. As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying. This is an issue of making surveillance easier and this should hardly come as a surprise because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance. Ultimately, by putting in place a mandate and enforcing it, it places additional costs and burdens on the businesses that must abide by these new regulations.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance.

        Even if that were true, it'd be irrelevant as China is Capitalist. Read about their economy on Wikipedia and stop looking like a fool.

        • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:10AM (#39821299)
          They still like to pretend they are communist to some extent. It's a national pride thing. Regardless, economic and political systems are not that closely linked: It's quite possible for a communist country to allow a great deal of political freedom, or a capitalist country to be as oppressive as any country can be.
          • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Interesting)

            by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:35PM (#39822441) Journal

            Uh no... A Communist country would be built upon a Communist economy. Communism is an economic as well as political ideology. Abandon the economic side of the equation and you cease to have a Marxist state. China has not meaningfully been a Communist state since Deng Xiaoping began his radical reforms in the post-Mao era. It could best be described as a Capitalist Technocracy that has turned Chinese Communism into little more than empty flag waving.

        • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:13AM (#39821355)

          There are only two differences between communism and capitalism:
          1. which small group gets to make the decisions
          2. which small group (same as in #1) is controlling the surveillance.

          In communism, it's government/political leaders. In capitalism, it is the upper corporate echelon.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by wer32r (2556798)

            There are only two differences between communism and capitalism:
            1. which small group gets to make the decisions
            2. which small group (same as in #1) is controlling the surveillance.

            In communism, it's government/political leaders. In capitalism, it is the upper corporate echelon.

            In the extreme case, when this "upper corporate echelon" gets powerful enough to pass laws, and challenge the elected government, they effectively become a part of the country's political leadership, and thus we are back to communism.

      • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Informative)

        by Microlith (54737) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:11AM (#39821315)

        a Communist country

        I think you mean "a dictatorial autocratic oligarchic country." Or something like that, possibly proto-fascist considering how closely linked their corporations and government officials are. China isn't communist by any stretch of the imagination, and the spying and censorship is purely for the purpose of keeping The Party in power, whatever the cost to the people.

        • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Funny)

          by smitty97 (995791) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:31PM (#39822389)
          I thought we were an autonomous collective
        • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:11PM (#39823105)

          the spying and censorship is purely for the purpose of keeping The Party in power, whatever the cost to the people.

          You just described the domestic policies of the top 8 economic powers of the world. Oppression = good business. Also, it strikes me as amusing that the Chinese have erected their great firewall and surveillance technology by copying already-existing technology from the United States. Now that the Chinese are ramping up their industrial espionage and surveillance ... perhaps in response to seeing what happened to Iran with Stuxnet ... it's no surprise they're looking to harden their infrastructure.

          We're trying to do it here as well; But only for certain businesses and government entities. Private citizens are still left to hang.

        • by jovius (974690)

          True. China has been on an ultra-capitalistic path since the 80s. China is the prime example of a corporative and capitalistic state. China is being led like a corporation and the leadership is unified with the vision of prosperity. The party members are the richest people of the country.

          • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

            by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday April 27, 2012 @02:50PM (#39824539) Journal

            Actually, if I had to define Chinese current ideology in as few words as possible, I think "national socialist" (yes, Nazi) would be closest. They're not rabid about racial superiority theories like Hitler was, and nowhere near as bloodthirsty or warmongering, but if you look at their internal policies themselves, they are remarkably similar in spirit.

            Regulated capitalist economy with protectionist measures for big business, who in turn work in the interests of the state and not just themselves? check. Interests of the state over those of individual? check. Conservative attitude towards morality? check. A single artificially defined "race" that is promoted over others? check.

      • Forcing everything to use one specific architecture, regardless as to how efficient it is at specific objectives related to the overall product (i.e. efficiency, multimedia processing, scientific calculations, etc..), isn't a bad thing?
        • It is a rather curious idea, though I suspect that, in practice, people will end up cheating by throwing 'coprocessors' into the mix...

          Think of, say, virtually all of the media set top box SoCs of the world. Usually ARM or MIPs(nominally); but that is just a weedy little core that draws a few UI elements and does OS housekeeping. The meat is inevitably some DSP, GPU, or video decode unit that may or may not even have a publicly known instruction set beyond the basic 'shove compressed video in like so, ob
          • by rs79 (71822)

            Agreed 100%. I'd use a pdp-11 instruction set (because nothing since was ever as clever) and lots of provisions for various coprocessors, some tbd.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by s4ltyd0g (452701)

        This is an issue of making surveillance easier and this should hardly come as a surprise because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance.

        Does that make the US a communist country then as well?

      • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mlts (1038732) * on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:26AM (#39821543)

        A backdoor standard would get them an expert medal in footshooting. Eventually some other country would find the backdoor and then be able to spy on all their businesses.

        This is one of the arguments that killed the Clipper Chip -- if Skipjack ever was broken, or the LEAF fields tampered with (which both happened), it would mean a foreign power would have wholesale access to US secrets.

        Another downside is simple -- heterogeneous environments make life easier for the blackhats. If everything used the same architecture, it means that a low level bug that can get code executed in ring 0 (to use Intel's terms) would affect everything from the embedded device, all the way to the supercomputers. Having different architectures means that damage due to a bug similar to the F0 0F bug of yore would be limited and containable.

        • To build on MTTs's argument - but how would this work in practice? I am seeing a huge logical hole that I can’t figure out. Picking a ISA would seem to work against them. Does anybody have any ideas?

          This is how I understand the proposal. The Government (and I can use upper case here because China is lead by a “Communist” party that leads state-owned enterprises – slightly more monolithic then elsewhere.) wants to save money (i.e. not pay western firms) by endorsing a ISA. O.K. I am

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by snadrus (930168)
            Cryptographically. Windows requiring EFI is using cryptography to lock out Mac, BSD, & Linux because motherboard manufacturers will only let the cryptographically-right OS run. Extend that to incoming network requests and done.
        • by Heretic2 (117767)

          Another downside is simple -- heterogeneous environments make life easier for the blackhats. If everything used the same architecture, it means that a low level bug that can get code executed in ring 0 (to use Intel's terms) would affect everything from the embedded device, all the way to the supercomputers. Having different architectures means that damage due to a bug similar to the F0 0F bug of yore would be limited and containable.

          I think you mean homogenous environments.

      • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:28AM (#39821563)

        As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying.

        Given the sheer amount of hacking originating in China, I would think the last thing they'd want to do is apply a homogeneous solution to critical systems. It seems to me like that's just an invitation to hackers world-wide to exploit the shit out of it.

        Maybe they think they're hack-proof or something.

        • Maybe they think they're hack-proof or something.

          Quite likely. Many people have invented systems they, themselves can not hack. This is a fairly common hubris in the security industry outside of the core people.
          vendor - use our product, it's invincible
          customer - [adjusts foil hat] I don't know, I think the NSA might have a back door
          vendor - you're just paranoid
          Schnier - well he's come to the right conclusion, if only by accident. Your system has this bit here that's totally exploitable with a paperclip and duct tape, here's McGuyver to demonstrate
          Chuck

      • because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance

        so, is the US now communist?

        is our surveillance any less than theirs?

        you may not be locked up by what you say, but you can be pretty sure that you are being spied upon just as much, maybe even more.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          so, is the US now communist?

          Logic lesson: if all your apples are red, that does not mean that all your red things are apples.

      • by drnb (2434720) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:19PM (#39822215)

        ... a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying ...

        I doubt its over surveillance, such a backdoor will be found. The real motivation is most likely economic, simply not wanting to buy an expensive part from the west. It may even become a part they could export. Do consumers really care, or even know, what CPU is inside some electronic appliance/device?

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          I think you can take their stated motivation at face value here. They just want to be free of any intellectual property claims. Rather than paying ARM royalties for every ARM compatible chip that goes into a Chinese smartphone/tablet/Windows 8 PC they can have their own free to use one. It would also allow Chinese companies to take the place of people like Intel and ARM and become major drivers of CPU technology.

          Backdoors are right out because then no-one would buy Chinese products, and they have a huge exp

          • by chill (34294)

            Interesting that they don't have OpenSPARC on their shortlist. Wouldn't that satisfy their worries about royalty-free IP?

            • by amorsen (7485)

              They probably want to create something which could theoretically deliver half-decent performance.

      • I don't think it is a question of a good or bad idea. As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying. This is an issue of making surveillance easier and this should hardly come as a surprise because a Communist country is entirely dependent upon controlling its citizens through the use of surveillance. Ultimately, by putting in place a mandate and enforcing it, it places additional costs and burdens on the businesses that must abide by these new regulations.

        Could also be that they are so paranoid that the West has backdoors into the existing technology that they want to design their own.

      • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Informative)

        by doublebackslash (702979) <doublebackslash@gmail.com> on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:40PM (#39822549)

        As the summary surmises, a unified architecture could make it easier to build in a common backdoor for spying.

        FTFA

        ...a ubiquitous, always-open backdoor that can be used by Chinese intelligence agencies. The Great Firewall of China is fairly easy to circumvent — but what if China built a DNS and IP address blacklist into the hardware itself?

        This is utter and complete nonsense. There is hardly a shread of logic in making this argument.

        It is an instruction set. You know, add register 1 to register 12 and store in register 1. Copy Register 1 to memory location 0xa3546f00. Things like that. In what world could an instruction set and basic outline for the architechure (which is the system built around the core instruction set. Memory interfaces, cache rules, chip to chip protocols, etc etc) be capable of a backdoor?

        Built in blacklist of IP addresses? How does that work? Blacklist an entire subset of the 32 and 128 bit integers? Good luck running the system! I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to try and predict the failure mode of there. Some others later inthe thread are talking about this making it easier for black hats by way of making their code portable. Portable code does make their job easier, but that doesn't make the system built on the ISA identical. It also doesn't make the chips themselves identical. A flaw in one chip or one system built on this ISA does not affect the others. Flaws that are within the spec itself are harder to fix but are no more a risk than any other ISA.

        There isn't a logical way for an ISA to be exploited for the kinds of things people are talking about. Even if they did, say, hide some nonvolitile storage on certain chips and try to identify AES being performed (for example) and store the keys away it would be trivial to obfuscate the AES code so it wasn't recognized. There are a near infinite number of ways to perform an arbitrary transformation on data, some are just used because they are faster and resistant to things like timing attacks.

        To cut this short: anyone making arguments against a standardized ISA by way of invoking security concerns needs to really lay out their argument. I can't concieve of one good path of attack but I think I'm biased against the idea. If someone can provide a good and thought out example I'd be glad to hear it but I suspect that the security angle isn't a valid concern.

      • Re:bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:51PM (#39822729) Journal
        While I have not the slightest doubt about the Chinese authorities' interests in surveillance, the ISA level seems a deeply strange layer to futz around with in order to further that goal. Are they planning on adding a MOVSCP(Move Word From String to Communist Party) instruction or something?

        It seems that somebody looking to build bugs would be focusing on a mechanism a trifle higher-level: whatever 'TPM-but-don't-call-it-a-TPM-because-NIH-is-serious-business' standard they are plugging away at would be one logical place to look. Any 'National Operating System' type initiative would also be worth a look(though, realistically, retail spying on end user devices is kind of a pain in the ass, and vulnerable to discovery by hacker types, and you can just bug the telcos and ISPs instead, CALEA-or-nastier style, with much less fuss).

        I'd be much more inclined to suspect some combination of quasi-mercantalist desire to avoid paying license fees to western tech outfits(and provide a convenient 'hook' by which foreign outfits who wish to score Chinese contracts can be forced to collaborate with whoever produces the blessed ISA) and a desire to (try) and prevent their government infrastructure being riddled with spots of code rotting on legacy architectures because some contractor who hasn't been in business in a decade had experience with it...
    • This is the beauty of AMD, Intel and others going into details of why they are technically superior in a certain way. Then when cornered they say: yeah we're about the same but you can get a "faster" chip from us a little cheaper than the other guy. CPUs have become commodities in most people eyes: how much "make it go" do I get for my $200?

      • by adisakp (705706)

        This is the beauty of AMD, Intel and others going into details of why they are technically superior in a certain way. Then when cornered they say: yeah we're about the same but you can get a "faster" chip from us a little cheaper than the other guy. CPUs have become commodities in most people eyes: how much "make it go" do I get for my $200?

        For what an average desktop neeps in gov't, you don't need to spend $200 on a CPU. Intel makes several CPU's that are capable of basic gaming for $80-$100 [tomshardware.com].

    • by Jawnn (445279)
      ..and which was the real reason for the fall of the U.S.S.R. Centralization simply killed any efficiencies that could be carved out of everything from farming to weapons production. May the Chinese continue to revel in the goodness of state-approved CPU architecture as they try to compete with the rest of the world.
      • Re:bad idea (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:27PM (#39822341)

        What killed the USSR was that few people wanted to be productive when their efforts would merely enrich the unproductive. Central planning certainly helped, but if people had been willing to work hard for no benefit the USSR might still be around today.

    • Back when we had all sorts of different screws and nuts and bolts with no standardization,
      there was always some reason why one particular brand was superior in one way.

      But if they never standardized, we would likely now be paying $5/screw
      instead of 5 cents/screw.

      • Re:Are you sure? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:16PM (#39822169)

        What are you talking about? There are literally dozens (maybe hundreds) of different types of screws [wikipedia.org] alone, engineered vastly different from one another to be best at their application. Wood screws are much different from sheet metal screws which are much different from concrete screws, phillips-head versus flat-head versus torx versus proprietary heads...

        Everything from the length of the screw, the spacing of the threading, whether it's self-tapping or not...they're all engineered to be best at a particular application. Once you extend the set to include fasteners of any type, there are probably a million different types, be it mechanical, chemical, magnetic...

        Try drilling a flat-head sheet metal screw into concrete. That's pretty much the same result you'll have trying to shove a one-size-fits-all CPU into every embedded computer system in the nation.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      We may be at the point where those different architectures aren't worth enough to care about either, at least for most consumer facing devices. Whether my speakers use 59 cents in one architecture cpu or 65 cents in another doesn't matter, my cable set top box might use 15 or 20 dollars in a CPU but they'll all do the job and it's not like I'm buying hundreds of these personally.

      For places where ISA's can really matter, high performance servers for example, I don't see these as mattering much as we'd expec

    • by Xiaran (836924)
      Next they should choose a single standard programming language... I hear Ada is very popular.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Maybe and maybe not.
      Look at x86 for example. You can go pretty for down the size and power scale with the Atom and then go up to Super computers all with one ISA.
      Arm goes from very small cpus up to pretty large and their is no reason why the ARM ISA "with 64 bit extensions" couldn't scale up as large.
      MIPS goes very down to very small systems using MIPS16e extensions which are a lot like the ARM Thumb extensions and can support SIMD, and 64bit at the high end. MIPS sounds like a logical choice for them to st

      • MIPS, ARM, POWER and Alpha - ARM is not likely to be released, since it's so lucrative, and I doubt that IBM will want to give up the POWER architecture either. MIPS might - and there, there is the Loongson processor, so the Chinese would already have a head start. Alpha is definitely a possibility, which I had suggested that the Russians use if they wanted a completely home grown super-computer. But if the Chinese want something proprietary, their best choice would be to tap Intel and go w/ the Itanium,

    • given that they still build physical product (so beneath us Americans now) and virtually all of it to boot, they are a tail more than big enough to wag the entire dog.
    • by G3ckoG33k (647276)

      "This is probably among the worst ideas I've ever heard. They're basically saying "Standardize at the cost of having different architectures that are superior in their own ways", which is just absurd."

      What?! The test:

      "This ISA would have to be used for any projects backed with government money — which, in a communist country such as China, is a fairly long list of public and private enterprises and institutions, including China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the world."

      Sounds like uncondition

  • Those (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Always open backdoors work both ways... once discovered.

    • Whatever. This whole "hacking" threat is overblown. When has any major company or corporation been hit by a serious hack? That's why I fully support the government taking over the internet to stop piracy!
      • by higuita (129722)

        yep, you are right, RSA [nytimes.com] isnt a major company, that dont have as its clients most of the other majors companies and governments... stolen RSA IDs couldnt be used to acces to important information...

        not, EMC [msn.com] wasnt hacked, and the source for vmware stolen... so you are safe in thousand of companies and corporation that use ESX in trust that their platform is safe and trusted...

        and dont forget you are always save with the encryption, certificates are safe [slashdot.org], no one can issue rogue certificates and decrypt your da

  • You mean (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ihatewinXP (638000)

    "What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?"

    Then they will have yet again copied the West's products and then rebranded the designs for their own use. As they have been doing for some time now..... China knows for a fact that the US is using backdoors in technology for warfare (see: Iran) and to overthrow governments (see: Arab Spring) - and is not going to long te

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Yup, because they can't risk having the Big Bad US Government overthrow the People's Republic. The Chinese people would never (dare) resist or oppose their benevolent, self-sacrificing government.

      Also, do you know of any specific backdoors, or are you just assuming that security holes are deliberate backdoors?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Each time I go to China, I'm amazed at the criticism and vitriol hurled at the government and communism. During conversations in public places. Makes me uncomfortable (kind of like visiting a friend's house and seeing a family fight). I've heard worse about the US government, but one set of jokes stand out. Seems that some Chinese are now joking that they'd welcome a US military invasion. From their tone, I can tell they are joking and just using hyperbole to show their frustration. Maybe they joke th

    • by Xibby (232218)

      Someone, somewhere, somehow will offer a sufficient bribe to gain access to those backdoors.

      Sounds like a great idea China, go for it!

    • by poity (465672)

      I don't know how you can say the Arab Spring is a machination of the US government when it has been more harmful to US influence in the region than it has been beneficial. Why would the US overthrow Mubarak when he was both capable and often agreeable to much of US ME policy? In fact, I'd say the US is opposed to the Arab Spring based on its continued aid to Yemen/Saudi Arabia/Bahrain. Tunisia and Egypt merely got too hot too fast, and the State Dept couldn't touch them without backlash.

      And how can you use

  • Didn't they try this like a decade ago with knock-off 586 chips?

    "always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies"

    Our spooks would probably love that. It wouldn't stay Chinese-only for very long.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:15AM (#39821371)
    Seriously. This is architecture stuff. You can't just write a backdoor into a chip that easily. You can't write censorship in, because there would be no way to update the censorlist. The most you could do is provide a code injection backdoor (If you see byte sequence xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, jump to the following byte), but with no way to disable it they would just weaken their own defence when it inevitably leaked.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just from the top of my head:
      They could include device/code authentication on-chip --> no more anonymity + only run approved, signed software
      If hardlinked to specific NIC --> govt owns your device, no more privacy.

      • by Microlith (54737)

        They could include device/code authentication on-chip --> no more anonymity + only run approved, signed software

        Communists nothing, Microsoft and Apple both want this as well.

        • by unixisc (2429386)
          No, Microsoft could have simply bought the Alpha years ago if it really wanted it. Same for Apple - when Freescale showed its lack of interest in PPC, they could have acquired that unit, or even owned it via Palo Alto Semi, instead of going the ARM route.
  • 0x10c (Score:5, Funny)

    by Megane (129182) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:32AM (#39821603) Homepage
    I hear they're hiring Notch to develop the new CPU architecture.
  • This seems to be total overkill. If China wants to spy on its users, its a lot easier to do it differently.

    Why not simply enforce that all new machines have UEFI and only accept to boot an OS which is signed by the Chinese government? In the kernel they can then introduce whatever spying technology they want.

    This is pretty much equivalent to creating their own architecture, since that would also require a specially compiled OS for that architecture.

    Or am I missing something?

    • Re:Overkill? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slew (2918) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:53AM (#39821893)

      Politics (and spying) aside, this is probably not unlike their past effort to create a new Audio Video compression Standard. I'm sure the Chinese look at the Arm ISA situation and see wow, you really do have to get an Arm license if you want to make a smart phone. This seems similar to the BluRay MPEG/H.264 situation and their move with AVS. They've got a lot of smart folks in China and want to spur development. In the process, the want to see if they can give their local companies an economic advantage (reduced licensing fees for manufactured products for domestic consumption).

      If this takes off in China (a big market), then instead of chinese companies paying foreign companies a licensing fee for products (net outflow of money), the foreign companies that want to make a product for consumption in the chinese market will probably have to pay the Chinese licensing fees for this. That way money for new development gets to stay in China benefiting their economy more than others. Why wouldn't they want to do this?

      Of course if it makes it easier to spy on folks, so much the better (homogenous platforms make that easier), but I don't think that's the main motivation. As with most things in China today, the motivation is national economic self-interest.

      • by higuita (129722)

        Arm ISA situation and see wow, you really do have to get an Arm license

        AHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHA AHHA!!!! ... Please stop.... HAHA... getting a ARM license... HAHAH... stop, you are killing me!! :)

        • by slew (2918)

          FYI, SMIC (the largest foundary in china, probably larger than all the others in china put together) already has a ARM foundary partner license which allows companies using SMIC to use an ARM9 hard macro for a very nominal fee. I'm sure that the negotiation of the future fees and these CPU standardization talks are not unrelated (this is china after all).

          Arm has been very aggressive in licensing in China (bulk pricing, bundling Mali-graphics cores for free, etc) much to the detriment of Mips. In fact ther

  • ISA [wikipedia.org] was created in 1981. China is just ensuring that everything from the past 30 years happens again...

  • by toriver (11308) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:44AM (#39821777)

    What if China goes the DIY route and makes its own ISA or microarchitecture with silicon-level censorship and monitoring, or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?

    We will still buy those products because they are the cheapest.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:53AM (#39821885)

    You could put one into an implementation of the ISA.

    If you wanted to put a backdoor into an implementation, you could easily do so with x86-64. It has instructions specifically used for AES. Just wire those to record keys, substitute keys or not actually encrypt and you're off and running.

    Of course, since any ISA and implementation is Turing-complete without the specialized crypto instructions, you could just use the non-specialized instructions to do your work and then it would be a lot harder for the chip to save off your keys or data.

  • fearmongering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:02PM (#39822009) Homepage Journal

    Interesting how most comments wank on about fears of backdoors.

    How stupid do you think the chinese are? A hardware backdoor in every device means that if you lose control of it even once, your entire infrastructure belongs to whoever you lost it to. I don't think anyone would take that risk for a bit of spying, not if you already have 100 better ways of spying.

    What is so unlikely about the assumption that it really is in order to become independent of the west? That's a biggy right there. There's an elephant in the room, you know? The chinese are fast becoming one of the most important players on the world stage and they can't have something as important as chip design rest with a country (USA) that might turn hostile at the next unpredictable election.

    • More likely it's some bureaucracy at a lower level, thinking, "we need to make our stuff more interoperable. We're going to do that like this........." An ISA is the last thing you need to worry about when you're thinking about independence from the USA.
    • How stupid do you think the chinese are? A hardware backdoor in every device means that if you lose control of it even once, your entire infrastructure belongs to whoever you lost it to. I don't think anyone would take that risk for a bit of spying, not if you already have 100 better ways of spying.

      The fearmongering is a valid point. However, the rest of your sentence is nonsense. People who make political decisions are rarely connected to the realities of their policies. Why do you think Stephen Conray wants to protect children be censoring the internet? The Australian PM admitted that it is a moral decision and not a technical one. Think about that for a moment, and then translate to China -- a place where 20 million people starved to death in the late 60s, because Mao wanted to increase steel prod

      • by Tom (822)

        True to a point.

        But it's not the 60s anymore, and the current chinese government is pretty far away from Mao. I've seen them make immoral decisions, hostile (to both other countries and their own people) decisions, and even some evil ones. But I've not yet seem them utterly GWB-level-dumb-as-shit ones. Have you?

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:04PM (#39822031) Homepage

    Will all CPU instruction be given the same time allowance, or will it be a case of to each according to its need [wikipedia.org]?

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      China is not a communist state so this point is moot.

    • by swb (14022)

      A few elite instructions will get as much time as they want, the rest will have to queue up once a week to get whatever time is available.

  • MMIX [wikipedia.org]

  • If only to give x86 a swift kick in the bits. These days, the x86 standard serves primarily as a barrier to entry - anyone can pick up open-source tools and write sort-of shippable code, but to get the last factor of two in performance, you either have to be Intel, or buy Intel's compiler and know a lot about configuring it and your code to mesh right.

  • "The primary reason for this move is to lessen China's reliance on western intellectual property."

    As if these chips won't be chock full of western IP... They've gotten what they wanted from the West, now they cut the cord. Rinse and repeat.
  • > or an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies?

    I'd like to point out that an always-open backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies would very shortly after release be an always-open backdoor into this technology for absolutely everyone. I don't see them doing this, but if they did, it'd be entertaining.

  • Yes it seems likely that the Chinese will put a backdoor into their chip. Which is bad. But is it worse than backdoors in say, Intel or AMD motherboards or chips... probably not. With the chinese CPU backdoor plan eventually a Linux will be released that fixes the problem, with American chips/motherboards/OSs it will probably take a lot longer and be more difficult to identify the backdoors/security holes. Also since they are driven by capitalism not communism many more backdoors and "bugs" will be accepte
  • schtick a little bit guys...how is this any different than government contracts to intel or amd? just replace the word government mandate with corporate contract, as most of our government is a revolving door of corporate namesakes anyhow.

    take note that the f35 lightning contains 3 powerpc chips. DoD and other government projects have certain architecture and even (gasp) operating system requirtements here in the states, often mandated or enforced by legislature.
  • First they start restricting exports of rare earths and vespene gas... pissing away their monopoly.

    Now they seek to mandate architecture rather than let market decide. These systems only work as well as they do and are only affordable as they are due to economies of scale. If you artificially throw a wrench in that the most likely outcome is increased cost and lower quality.

    Unfounded american paranoia wrt chinese products and firms including huawei and lenovo is equally stupid.

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